In Poland, pedestrians can also receive a fine for using their phones

Poland has been strengthening controls and penalties for drivers to improve road safety. But pedestrians are also required to pay attention when they cross roads.

Police road traffic
Traffic police officers of the Małopolska province using drones to control the behavior of drivers and pedestrians close to crosswalks | Małopolska Police

In Poland, fines imposed on pedestrians crossing roads while staring at their phones are rising compared to last year.

Polish authorities have been strengthening penalties and fines on drivers to reduce road traffic accidents in the last months. But because they consider pedestrians are not exempt from paying attention to their own safety, the latter can also be penalized when they cross roads.

From January to mid-April, 2,265 pedestrians received a fine for using their mobile phones while crossing a road, bike lane, or track, according to data from the Central Police Headquarters first reported by the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita.

It is nearly twice as many people as the same period last year when the ban was first introduced.

With 59 deaths per million inhabitants in 2021, Polish roads are some of the most unsafe ones in Europe, according to European Commission statistics. Despite having the lowest number of road fatalities ever recorded, the country remained way above the average of 44 road deaths per million inhabitants in the European Union. Only Croatia, Latvia, Bulgaria, and Romania recorded more casualties than Poland, although these countries had at least 72 fatalities per million inhabitants.

Less than 2,000 road deaths for the first time in 2022

Poland decided to apply stricter rules and more substantial penalties to drivers to further reduce road deaths by amending the Road Traffic Act in January and September 2022.

Fines and penalty points on driving licenses dramatically increased, especially in case of repeated offenses and speeding tickets. Drivers who drunk too much see their cars confiscated.

But many car accidents involve pedestrians, which occur almost half the time when they cross roads on crosswalks. As such, drivers now also need to approach crossings more slowly and stop to allow pedestrians to cross the streets on crosswalks, or else face a fine of 1,500 złoty (360 dollars).

The police increased controls, sometimes using drones to monitor road safety at intersections with heavy traffic. Bydgoszcz‘s municipal police traffic department, a Polish northern city of 350,000 people, noted 83 irregularities committed by drivers concerning pedestrians during a day in April and 75 infractions committed by pedestrians, mainly because they crossed a road outside crosswalks.

Phone use is now also prohibited on roads for both drivers and pedestrians. And since September, authorities increased the fine for pedestrians distracted by their mobile to 300 złoty (72 dollars).

In 2022, 4,112 people got caught not paying attention to their surroundings because of their electronic devices, accounting for a monthly average of 343 people, while it has been close to 650 pedestrians fined per month so far this year.

But recent measures from Poland seem to yield results. In 2022, fewer pedestrians died of road accidents than in 2021, with 30% fewer casualties than before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Polish Road Safety Observatory. Moreover, it noted that the number of speeding infractions decreased by 30 percent, and it was the first year Poland recorded less than 2,000 traffic fatalities, 18 percent less than in 2021.

However, while Poland decided to remove training that resulted in recovering driving license points last year, officials recently reintroduced it after complaints from the transport industry.

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